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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/01_08_2011-s...

by Arielle Estrada

Salah Hamouri, “Why is Israel scared of a 7-year-old child?”

Translated Tuesday 9 August 2011, by Elaine Scott and reviewed by Bill Scoble

A dozen young communist supporters have traveled to Israel and Palestine. Two of them have been able to talk with Salah Hamouri, a young Franco-Palestinian imprisoned in Israel since 2005. Fabien Gay recounts this meeting for us.

You have just met Salah Hamouri, in what physical and mental state was he in?

Fabien Gay: He is thinner than he is in photos, but he is physically fine and very calm. We were all very emotional; we are practically the only young people he has seen for 6 years. We discussed a lot, and even laughed; we talked about football, which cheered him up. But Salah never talks about himself. We were able to ask him some questions about his life. Except for his wish to take up his studies of political science again and to continue the fight, he doesn’t really confide a lot, nor does he mention his future. He wants to come to France to thank all those who fought for his release. He talked mostly about the Palestinian political prisoners, saying, “We have some messages for you to pass on.”

Does he use his meetings with the authorities to highlight all of the prisoners’ cases?

Fabien Gay: Yes, and Salah had prepared for the meeting with us with all of his cell-mates. He started by telling us about their wish to shatter the image created by the Israeli government, portraying them as terrorists. “We are human beings,” he told us, “There are all different types of people here: progressives, communists, socialists, Islamists. In the cell we all get on well, we discuss a lot.” He spared a thought for the 300 children, from 7 to 18 years-old, who are still imprisoned in Israeli jails. He made this strong statement: “Why is a state like Israel, which possesses 250 nuclear bombs, scared of a 7-year-old child?” He also spoke about their difficult living conditions. Furthermore, these minors are tried by a military tribunal. He also talked about 18 political prisoners suffering from cancer in prison.

What kind of contact can Salah have with the outside world?

Fabien Gay: It is very restricted. We were lucky to get the authorisation to meet with him. Except for his family and members of the consulate, Salah has the right to only three or four visits each year. Since he was put in prison he has seen his family only from behind a sheet of glass. He does receive books from the consulate, but nothing political. These are forbidden.

However, Salah and his inmates do have access to a television. They have the BBC in Arabic, but Al Jazeera has been blocked as it is judged too “pro-Palestine”. They have a sports channel as well, so they were able to watch France’s last match at the World Cup and Roland-Garros.

He can also receive newspapers. “L’Humanité was the first newspaper I asked for, but it was refused straight away,” he said. He had been receiving Le Figaro for 6 months, but for a month and a half he has had nothing. He put in a request to have Le Monde, but it was in vain.

Finally, there are the letters. Some sent to him are censored - if there are press cuttings, for example. Censorship is very inconsistent. A little while ago, Salah Hamouri received, for the first time, a stamp with a face on it. Previously, they had been systematically removed by the authorities. This time, it managed to get through, without his knowing why.

He apologized for not being able to respond to everybody because he is allowed to send only two letters and four post cards each month. As to the Internet, there isn’t any access, but he follows the day to day news thanks to television and radio.

What did he say about the coverage of Palestine?

Fabien Gay: They followed the events surrounding the Gaza flotilla. “We followed it minute by minute. We shared their fears and their hopes. We learned that the boat had been boarded by the authorities; it was outrageous”, he told us. According to him, the European Union and France are the culprits of the blockade because, by doing nothing in order to protect their citizens, they supported it.

In September, the demand for a recognised Palestinian state will be presented to the UN. On this subject, Salah thinks it is very important to have agreement between Fatah and Hamas groups. “A people divided will never be liberated. Despite our differences, we have to speak with the same voice”, he declared.

For him, the first “dynamic union” has been set in motion. Now, it is up to the international community to recognise a Palestinian state in September, even though he is convinced that the United States will veto it at the UN. He thinks that “this is not the end, but rather a disorganised beginning.”

Regarding the Arab uprisings, he discussed the importance of the establishment of democratic states separated from religion in those places where some regimes have tortured their people and manipulated the Palestinian cause. “We don’t want these non-democratic regimes to support us, even though they have never done anything”, he criticized.

In relation to Libya, he declared that he did not want a “second Iraq”.

For you, what is the possibility of an early release of Salah Hamouri?

Fabien Gay: His release should happen the 28th of November, but it is possible that they will detain him until the 11th of March, 2012, because the Israeli administrative system permits the imprisonment of a detainee for a further 6 months. We informed Salah that after questioning the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alain Juppé, he demanded that Israeli authorities be lenient, but was flatly refused.

Salah Hamouri’s letter to young communist supporters

“I send you my regards and also the regards from all the political prisoners. Your support keeps our spirits up and makes us feel that we are not alone and that our collective fight is being continued against injustice and all forms of discrimination. I know that we will continue to fight together despite the suffering. I thank each and every one of you. Salah Hamouri, Gilboa prison, 2nd July.”

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